Spain, Ireland and Norway to recognise Palestinian state

Spain, Ireland and Norway to recognise Palestinian state

Spain, Ireland and Norway will formally recognise a Palestinian state on Tuesday in a decision slammed by Israel as a "reward" for Hamas more than seven months into the devastating Gaza war.

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The three European countries believe their initiative has strong symbolic impact, which is likely to encourage others to follow suit.

They also point to Norway and Spain's historic role in advancing Israel-Palestinian peace efforts.

In 1991, the two sides sat down together for the first time at the Madrid peace conference that paved the way for the 1993 Oslo Accords.

"Recognition of the State of Palestine is not only a matter of historic justice... Is it also an essential requirement if we are all to achieve peace," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said before meeting his cabinet.

The move, he said, was "not against anyone, least of all Israel".

"It is the only way to move towards the solution that we all recognise as the only possible way to achieve a peaceful future -- that of a Palestinian state living side-by-side with the state of Israel in peace and security."

Sanchez also said the decision reflected Spain's "outright rejection of Hamas, which is against the two-state solution" and whose October 7 attacks led to the Gaza war.

The plans were unveiled last week in a coordinated announcement by the prime ministers of the three countries.

Formal recognition was to take place in all three on Tuesday.

Both the Spanish and Irish cabinets were to meet to approve the step on Tuesday morning, while Norway informed Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa at the weekend its recognition would also take effect on Tuesday.

- Differences within the EU -

Although Slovenia has also started the process of recognising a Palestinian state, the issue has provoked sharp disagreement within the 27-nation European Union.

Spain and Ireland are part of the bloc.

For decades, formal recognition of a Palestinian state has been seen as the endgame of a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Washington and most Western European nations have said they are willing to one day recognise Palestinian statehood, but not before agreement on thorny issues like the status of Jerusalem and final borders.

The spiralling bloodshed in Gaza has revived calls for Palestinians to be given their own state, with a growing number of European countries expressing a desire to do so.

Within the EU, states like France believe it is not the right time to do so, while Germany only envisages recognition following negotiations between the two sides.

Tuesday's move by Spain, Ireland and Norway will mean 145 of the United Nations' 193 member states now recognise Palestinian statehood.

These include many Middle Eastern, African and Asian countries but not the United States, Canada, most of western Europe, Australia, Japan or South Korea.

In 2014, Sweden became the first EU member to recognise a Palestinian state.

It followed in the steps of six other European countries that took the step before joining the bloc -- Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania.

- 'Award for Hamas' -

The decision by Madrid, Dublin and Oslo has provoked a furious response from Israel.

On Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz began taking "preliminary punitive measures" against Spain, ordering its Jerusalem consulate to stop offering consular services to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

"We will not put up with harming Israel's sovereignty and security," Katz said, describing recognition of Palestinian statehood as "an award to Hamas".

On October 7, Hamas fighters stormed into southern Israel, killing more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza. The Israeli army says 37 of them are dead.

Israel's relentless retaliatory offensive has killed more than 36,000 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

On Sunday, Katz posted a video on X splicing footage of the October 7 attacks with flamenco dancing, saying: "Sanchez: Hamas thanks you for your service" in a move denounced by Spain as "scandalous and revolting".

A day earlier, Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles accused Israel of committing "a real genocide" in Gaza.

Until now, such language had only been heard from far-left ministers of Sanchez's coalition but not from a member of his Socialist party.

"Some have framed our decision to recognise the state of Palestine as... a reward for terror. Nothing could be further from the truth," Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said on Monday.

With the move, Dublin, Madrid and Oslo want "to see a future of normalised relations between the two peoples" and to implement a two-state solution, he said.

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